SC sentences 3 police officers to 14 years' imprisonment

July 28, 2012 1:19 am 

MANILA, July 27 — The Supreme Court (SC) has sentenced three members of the former Integrated National Police (INP) to 14 years' imprisonment in connection with a bloody shootout that killed one person and wounded another in San Fernando, Pampanga in 1988.

In a decision, the SC's Third Division denied the petition for review filed by accused Salvador Yapyuco Jr., Generoso Cunanan Jr., and Ernesto Puno.

The SC upheld with modifications the joint decision of the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case Nos. 16612, 16613 and 16614 dated June 27, 1995.

The court sentenced the petitioners "to suffer the indeterminate penalty of six (6) years and one (1) day of prision mayor, as the minimum, to twelve (12) years and one (1) day of reclusion temporal, as the maximum; in Criminal Case No. 16614, the indeterminate sentence is hereby modified to two (2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional, as the maximum, and six (6) months of arresto mayor, as the minimum."

"Petitioners are directed to indemnify, jointly and severally, the heirs of Leodevince Licup in the amount of P77,000.00 as actual damages, P50,000.00 in moral damages, as well as Noel Villanueva, in the amount of P51,700.00 as actual and compensatory damages, and P20,000.00 as moral damages," the SC said.

Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

The cases were predicated on a shooting incident on April 5, 1988 in Barangay Quebiawan, San Fernando, Pampanga which caused the death of Licup and injured Villanueva.

Yapyuco, Cunanan and Puno, who were members of the then INP stationed at the Sindalan Substation in San Fernando, Pampanga; Jose Pamintuan and Mario Reyes, who were barangay captains of Quebiawan and Del Carmen, respectively; Ernesto Puno, Andres Reyes and Virgilio Manguerra, Carlos David, Ruben Lugtu, Moises Lacson, Renato Yu, Jaime Pabalan and Carlos David, who were either members of the Civil Home Defense Force (CHDF) or civilian volunteer officers in Barangays Quebiawan, Del Carmen and Telebastagan were all charged with murder, multiple attempted murder and frustrated murder in three cases.

On April 5, 1988, Villanueva, Flores, Calma, De Vera, Panlican and Licup were at the residence of Salangsang as guests at the barrio fiesta celebrations between 5:00 and 7:30 p.m.

They decided to leave at about 7:30 p.m., shortly after the religious procession had passed. As they were all inebriated, Salangsang reminded Villanueva, who was on the wheel, to drive carefully and watch out for potholes and open canals on the road.

With Licup in the passenger seat and the rest of his companions at the back of his Tamaraw jeepney, Villanueva allegedly proceeded at 5-10 kilometers per hour with headlights dimmed.

Suddenly, as they were approaching a curve on the road, they met a burst of gunfire and instantly, Villanueva and Licup were both wounded and bleeding profusely.

The Sandiganbayan had declared that the shootout which caused injuries to Villanueva and which brought the eventual death of Licup was committed by petitioners willfully under the guise of maintaining peace and order.

It said that the acts performed by them preparatory to the shooting, which ensured the execution of their evil plan without risk to themselves, demonstrated a clear intent to kill the occupants of the subject vehicle and that the fact they had by collective action deliberately and consciously intended to inflict harm and injury and had voluntarily performed those acts negated their defense of lawful performance of official duty.

The Sandiganbayan said that the theory of mistaken belief could not likewise benefit petitioners because there was supposedly no showing that they had sufficient basis or probable cause to rely fully on Pamintuan's report that the victims were armed New People's Army (NPA) members.

It said that the shooting incident could not have been the product of a well-planned and well-coordinated police operation but was the result of either a hidden agenda concocted by barangay captains Mario Reyes and Pamintuan, or a hasty and amateurish attempt to gain commendation.

Yapyuco elevated the case to the SC.

In its decision written by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the SC said that the Sandiganbayan correctly found that petitioners are guilty as co-principals in the crimes of homicide and attempted homicide only, respectively, for the death of Licup and for the non-fatal injuries sustained by Villanueva, and that they deserve an acquittal together with the other accused, of the charge of attempted murder with respect to the unharmed victims.

The SC said "the allegation of evident premeditation has not been proved beyond reasonable doubt because the evidence is consistent with the fact that the urge to kill had materialized in the minds of petitioners as instantaneously as they perceived their suspects to be attempting flight and evading arrest."

"The same is true with treachery, inasmuch as there is no clear and indubitable proof that the mode of attack was consciously and deliberately adopted by petitioners," it added. (PNA) scs/PTR

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